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Nevertheless, the task of finding the platform to launch your business can be quite overwhelming. This is where Shopify excels, providing entrepreneurs with a user-friendly experience and various innovative features. One such feature that has gained popularity is Shopify’s print-on-demand (POD) service. Let’s explore what distinguishes Shopify in the POD industry.

Understanding Shopify’s print-on-demand

Printing on demand represents a business model that empowers entrepreneurs to create and sell products without inventory management. Instead, products are shipped directly to customers upon order placement. Shopify’s print-on-demand service seamlessly integrates this model into stores.

Unmatched Integration Capabilities

A critical factor differentiating Shopify’s print-on-demand offering lies in its integration capabilities. Unlike platforms requiring external integration services to connect with POD providers, Shopify offers built-in integrations with leading POD apps. This enables merchants to synchronize their stores with POD providers effortlessly, thereby streamlining their operations.

The POD apps on Shopify’s platform are exceptional, showcasing their commitment to providing the experience for merchants. Unlike platforms with fewer options, Shopify offers a wide range of top-notch POD apps, each with unique features and advantages.

Quality Printing and Finishing Options

Printing and finishing quality is crucial in the POD industry, and Shopify understands this well. That's why they have partnered with POD providers who excel in delivering printing capabilities. This ensures that every product sold through Shopify’s POD service meets or exceeds customer expectations in terms of quality.

The integration with printing-on-demand (POD) providers enables merchants to access a range of printing techniques, such as direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, dye sublimation, and screen printing. This flexibility ensures that merchants can offer customers a selection of products featuring high-quality prints.

Advanced Order and Inventory Management

Managing orders and inventory can be a task for e-commerce businesses. However, Shopify’s print-on-demand service simplifies this process through its order and inventory management features.

The order details are seamlessly transmitted to the chosen POD app whenever an order is placed on a Shopify store. The app then takes care of fulfilling the order and handling shipping. This automation saves merchants time and effort, allowing them to focus on growing their business.

In addition to streamlining the ordering process, Shopify’s POD service keeps track of inventory levels in time. This ensures that merchants are always aware of stock availability. Customer satisfaction is maintained by preventing overselling and avoiding situations where orders need to be cancelled due to stock or backorders.

Fast and Reliable Order Fulfilment Service

When it comes to meeting customer expectations in e-commerce, reliable order fulfilment is crucial. Fortunately, Shopify’s POD service excels in this aspect through its integration with top-tier POD providers.

The printing apps offered on Shopify utilize their network of printing facilities and logistics partners, enabling order fulfilment regardless of the merchant or customer's location. By partnering with print providers, merchants can reduce shipping times and costs by providing a customer experience.

Outstanding Customer Support

Running a business can be challenging for new entrepreneurs. To address this, Shopify provides customer support through live chat, email, and phone support. Whether merchants need assistance setting up their store, integrating a printing app, or resolving issues, Shopify’s support team is readily available to help.

Moreover, many of the printing apps on Shopify also offer support to their users. This ensures that merchants have access to expert guidance and troubleshooting whenever required.

Conclusion

Shopify’s print-on-demand innovation has revolutionized the e-commerce industry by simplifying the process of launching businesses for entrepreneurs. With its integration capabilities, quality printing and finishing options, advanced order and inventory management features, fast and reliable order fulfilment services, and exceptional customer support, Shopify stands out from other platforms in the print-on-demand market.

By utilizing Shopify’s print-on-demand service, business owners can concentrate on developing designs and expanding their ventures while entrusting the responsibilities of printing order fulfilment and customer support to professionals. Begin your path with Shopify now and become part of the flourishing community of POD businesses.

Securing the Financial Future

Insights from IBM on Battling Cyber Threats in an Evolving Landscape

 

Corey Hamilton

Global Financial Services Leader & Partner, IBM Security Services

 

As the Global Financial Services Leader at IBM Security Services, could you share your insights on cybersecurity in the financial industry?

The financial services sector is undergoing a period of prolonged and far-reaching change – a digital transformation that has been in progress for some time but which was accelerated by the pandemic. The wide-spread adoption of hybrid working, often supported by the implementation of cloud-based systems, reduced or constricted budgets, daunting technical debt are just some of the more obvious developments; adaptations that are uncovering new vulnerabilities and opening up new routes of attack for cybercriminals and hostile states.

 

In recent years, we have seen increased cyber threats targeting the financial sector, including state-sponsored  threats. What are some emerging trends or techniques that cybercriminals employ, and how can financial institutions stay ahead of these threats?

 

One of the most worrying trends is the rise of increasingly sophisticated ransomware attacks. The days of simply locking someone’s data and then demanding a payment in return for the encryption key are long gone. Attackers have largely replaced that model with a more damaging two-step approach that simultaneously paralyses a target’s system while surreptitiously extracting its data.

 

Cybercriminals are always looking for the next development. As a result, things are about to get even more complicated: triple extortion has arrived. This takes the two-step approach and adds in ransom demands directed at a victim’s supply chain, a common source of vulnerability as the security maturity of each part of a supplier network won’t necessarily be the same.

 

How does IBM Security Services help financial organisations develop robust cybersecurity strategies? Are there any specific frameworks or methodologies that you follow?

 

The financial services sector needs to take a ‘zero trust’ approach to security – a methodology that abandons the idea that you can trust anyone as far as security is concerned. Everyone needs to be re-evaluated and re-authenticated and then given the lowest set of system privileges required for them to operate.

 

This approach also assumes the worst – that a breach is happening – it’s about spotting it rather than thinking, ‘I can’t see an attack, I’m therefore okay’. Zero trust argues that every organisation is under attack – it’s just a matter of how bad it might be.

 

Data breaches and data privacy are major concerns for financial institutions. What steps should organisations take to ensure the security of customer data and comply with regulatory requirements and avoid being hacked in the first place?

 

The burgeoning digitisation of the financial services industry, including the widespread adoption of hybrid cloud, has rightly attracted the attention of regulators and policy makers. As a result, financial institutions need to balance innovation with increasingly stringent compliance and security requirements. For example, the Bank of England is looking at ways to facilitate greater resilience and the adoption of cloud-based services and other new technologies – an approach that combines support for innovation with regulatory oversight.

 

 

With the rise of cloud computing and remote work, how can financial institutions effectively manage cybersecurity risks in these environments? What are some best practices for securing cloud-based systems and remote access?

 

Financial institutions are among the top targets for cybercriminals because of the wealth of valuable data they hold, which make them a very attractive to cybercriminals. This hasn’t gone unnoticed – businesses are waking up to the notion that standard security measures are not enough in the cloud. To keep customers and proprietary data secure and private, enterprise-grade security innovations, such as confidential computing, are essential.

 

Of course, security in the digital domain isn’t new; protecting internet communication with HTTPS is well established, as is the use of SSL, which was initially applied to credit card transactions but has since become ubiquitous. Confidential computing has the potential to become equally as pervasive due, in part, to the widespread adoption of cloud technology.

 

By ensuring that data is processed in a shielded environment confidential computing makes it possible to securely collaborate with partners without divulging proprietary information. It makes it possible for different organisations to amalgamate data sets for analysis – such as fraud detection – without getting to see each other’s information.

 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being increasingly used in cybersecurity. How is IBM incorporating these technologies into its security solutions, and what benefits do they offer regarding threat detection and prevention?

 

IBM Cloud for Financial Services is designed to help clients mitigate risk and accelerate cloud adoption for even their most sensitive workloads. Security controls are built into the IBM Cloud to enable financial institutions to automate their security and compliance behaviours and make it easier for clients to simplify their risk management and demonstrate regulatory observance.

 

The IBM X-Force Protection Platform augments our cyber security experts with AI and automation at global scale, resulting in more effective, efficient and resilient security operations. We have successfully helped clients proactively identify, protect, detect, respond and recover faster from attacks due to the unique capabilities of the platform. Our platform’s AI is used on top of what vendors provide within their off-the-shelf tools. The platform learns and incorporates the intelligence from 100s of analysts across thousands of our clients. It provides guidance on policy recommendations and reduces the noise, so critical items can be addressed immediately.

 

The services platform promotes effective, efficient, and resilient security operations, at global scale, connecting workflows across our different services. It provides a method for integrating all of an organization’s security technologies cohesively within our open ecosystem. What this means is that the services platform is IBM’s end-to-end integrated approach to Security Services. This includes a combination of software, services and methodologies which are integrated in a centralized platform providing the clients with a unified experience. IBM’s services platform integrates across people, processes and tools using open standards and best practices.

 

Looking ahead, what do you see as the future of cybersecurity in the financial industry? Are there any emerging technologies or trends that will significantly impact how financial institutions approach cybersecurity?

 

Highly regulated industries are feeling pressure to transform with an ever-increasing rate and pace. However, they must not lose focus on security, resiliency and compliance on their mission to modernise. This is especially important for financial services where regulations are rapidly changing and exposure to cyber threats has escalated to unprecedented levels. And it’s about to get even more complex.

 

Financial institutions need AI tools that are accurate, scalable and adaptable can keep up with the evolving threat landscape. IBM has been a leader in the work of foundation models – and watsonx is part of IBM’s push to put state-of-the-art foundation models in the hands of businesses. Furthermore, IBM is thinking bigger – building and applying foundation models for entirely unexplored business domains such as geospatial intelligence, code and IT operations.

 

Financial institutions also need to be crypto-agile in order to protect themselves from attack by quantum computers. Quantum and crypto agility can help financial institutions to improve their cybersecurity posture. The aim is to combine the performance of current processes that use classical and AI solutions in fraud management, risk management and customer experience, with that of the latest quantum technology, with the goal of achieving a quantum advantage.

 

This is where AI comes in. It can help cybersecurity teams by automating protection, prevention, detection and response processes. Paired with human intelligence, financial services companies can extend their visibility across a rapidly expanding digital landscape of applications and endpoints.

 

 

The rapidly changing technology landscape has made it difficult for banks and other financial institutions to move money across borders quickly, securely and efficiently. Archaic systems do not seem to have a place anymore, and financial institutions are given no choice but to evolve.

Nonetheless, with the advent of new and innovative payment solutions, cross-border payments' future looks promising. According to Juniper Research, B2B cross-border payments are expected to exceed USD 42.7 trillion by 2026. This growth is being driven by several factors that we will explore today.

Trends Reshaping Cross-Border Payments

1. Emerging Cross-Border FinTech Solutions

Cross-border fintechs have emerged as viable alternatives to traditional banks and other financial institutions. They can offer lower fees and faster transaction times by leveraging the latest technology. In addition, many of these fintechs offer API integration, which allows businesses to seamlessly connect their cross-border payment solutions with their existing accounting and ERP systems.

They also focus on specialised fintech-based solutions designed to automate their processes, such as mass-payment solutions and multi-currency accounts, without the need to be physically present in different countries. These are the kinds of solutions that traditional banks are often unable to provide.

The Bank of England has estimated that cross-border flows will grow significantly in the coming years, from USD 150 trillion in 2017 to an estimated USD 250 billion by 2027. This growth is being driven by a number of factors, including the increasing globalisation of trade, the rise of digital commerce and the growing popularity of mobile payments. With this increase in cross-border activity, there is a growing need for efficient and cost-effective cross-border payment solutions. This is where fintechs are able to offer a competitive advantage over traditional financial institutions.

2. The Proliferation of CBDCs

Central banks worldwide are researching and experimenting with central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). The Bank of England is one of the many institutions that are looking into this new technology. They have stated that a CBDC could provide "a more efficient and resilient payments system" and help reduce business costs.

CBDCs have the potential to revolutionise cross-border payments, as they would allow businesses to make international payments using a digital currency that is backed by a central bank. This would simplify the process, improve the speed and eliminate the need for intermediaries. In addition, CBDCs could help to reduce the risk of fraud and counterfeiting associated with traditional cross-border payments, as they would be issued using blockchain technology. This would provide a secure and immutable record of all transactions. 

3. Real-Time Cross-Border Payments

One of the biggest challenges with cross-border payments is the time it takes for the money to reach the recipient. This is due to the fact that banks operate on different schedules and time zones, which can cause delays. In addition, banks often have to rely on intermediaries to process these payments, which can add even more time.

This is why real-time cross-border payments are becoming more popular. These payments are processed and settled immediately, which means that the money will reach the recipient almost instantaneously. This is made possible by using technology such as blockchain and smart contracts.

Currently, there are several initiatives underway to launch real-time cross-border payment systems, including SWIFT GPI and Visa Direct.

What Does The Future Hold?

The trends discussed here are all pointing to cross-border payments becoming faster, more secure, cost-efficient and more efficient from a customer standpoint. This is good news for businesses and consumers alike.

There are, however, some challenges that need to be addressed. Firstly, the closed-loop nature of some of the new cross-border fintech solutions may limit their market power. Bech and Hancock note that, in contrast to stablecoins, cross-border fintech solutions rely much more on existing providers and infrastructures (banks and payment systems). This means they are less deep than stablecoins in terms of the closed loop they bring.

Secondly, the legal and regulatory environment for cross-border payments is complex. This is due to the fact that there are multiple jurisdictions involved. Regulations are constantly changing, and this can make it challenging for businesses to keep up to date. 

Finally, data security is a key concern for businesses when making cross-border payments. This is due to the fact that sensitive data, such as financial information, is often involved. 

Despite these challenges, the overall trend is positive, and it seems likely that cross-border payments will continue to become faster, easier and more efficient.

About the author: As Co-Founder at Capitalixe, Lissele Pratt helps companies in high-risk industries obtain the latest financial technology and banking solutions. 

With 7+ years of experience in the financial services industry and her global perspective, the entrepreneurial-minded Lissele is a recognised expert in foreign exchange, payments and financial technology. Her entrepreneurial spirit took her from crafting her first business at the age of 16 to building a seven-figure consultancy within the space of three years. 

Lissele's hard work and determination landed her a spot on the Forbes 30 under 30 finance list in 2021. You can also find her insights in popular publications like Business Leader, Fintech Futures, Fintech Times, Valiant CEO, Finextra and Thrive Global

As a recognised thought-leader, she has over 11,000 followers on LinkedIn, with an average engagement rate of 20k views and over 1,600 subscribers on her LinkedIn newsletter

The advent of HMRC’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative has changed the way in which we process and arrange our tax affairs irrevocably. Whilst previously only businesses with a taxable turnover above £85,000 had to comply, since April of this year, all VAT-registered businesses have been subject to mandatory online MTD submissions. Soon, similar regulations will apply to Corporation Tax (CT). But what does this mean for how we submit our returns and are most companies ready?

Disconnected data

Traditionally, VAT and CT, with their widely varied deadlines, have not been connected for reporting purposes. However, this is set to change when MTD for CT arrives, as the new quarterly CT submissions will have to be sent to HMRC within days of their equivalent VAT filings. This means that it makes sense for organisations to align their VAT and CT processes more closely.

The reality remains, though, that currently most companies are simply not prepared to leverage data across multiple MTD streams. Today’s typical accounting landscape has siloes with specialists dedicated to one specific area – be it VAT or CT – with separate data and separate timescales. Unsurprisingly, this means that tax advisors can be skilled in either CT or VAT but rarely in both. As processes continue to align, this presents a challenge.

Also notable is the fact that CT filing happens twelve months after the end of the CT financial year whereas VAT fillings happen quarterly or monthly, with reporting occurring 30 working days after. Such distinct deadlines don’t have data overlap because CT uses data that has long since been checked and finalised, while VAT-related data can be subject to change during the reporting cycle. Currently, this is no major problem but the arrival of MTD for CT with its new reporting cycles will disrupt the landscape.

Changing reporting cycles

When MTD for CT arrives, there will be additional data to submit on a quarterly basis, bringing VAT and CT tax data closer than ever – with greater interaction between the two. If your company follows calendar quarter, it currently files its VAT returns on May 5th. Going forward, you will also be submitting CT returns on 30th April, making the time between submissions much shorter. Naturally, this means that data must be aligned across both processes and that the CT team will need visibility of the VAT team’s reporting and vice versa.

So how do we connect these disparate teams more closely? Firstly, we need to revamp the legacy, siloed approach to CT and VAT and instead introduce fully integrated tax teams. This will encourage a holistic, transparent view of both disciplines underpinned by a single source of truth, enabling clarity and seamless processes throughout the tax department.

Secondly, we can look to technology to provide new ways of doing business. Too many companies still depend on Excel and similar software to enable their MTD calculations even though this puts severe constraints on processes. This old-fashioned approach needs continual manual updates, with great potential for human error, risks regulatory compliance and lacks smooth integration with other financial systems. With HMRC recently issuing updated guidance on penalties relating to MTD for VAT non-compliance, the incentive to not make mistakes continues to grow.

New opportunities and added value

The time is right, therefore, for companies to evaluate the new generation of UK-specific VAT and CT applications. These are less time-consuming, integrate seamlessly with other core IT platforms such as ERP, and automatically update according to the latest regulations. Specialist software also has the potential to minimise risk, improve precision and increase control while boosting efficiency. This can help companies of all sizes to eliminate common problems, such as laborious data formatting.

Modern, best-of-breed financial systems and VAT calculation tools can also generate value beyond meeting MTD compliance requirements. They provide more precise, timely and transparent data, which enables smarter decision-making and improved business intelligence.

This consistent access to large volumes of accurate data provides clearer insight into the profit margins in different areas of your business, helping companies identify disparities. This data can also be extracted beyond the tax department to the broader business where additional value can be leveraged.

At the same time, they enable more complex calculations, such as partial exemption, helping companies potentially recover more in VAT, for example. Not only does this ensure faster results, but it also takes the monotonous number crunching out of the hands of skilled professionals who can be redeployed to more high-value tasks.

Introducing the cloud

The traditional approach to on-premise computer platforms was to get tied into lengthy, expensive partnerships with big legacy vendors, requiring significant upfront investment in both hardware and software as well as costly ongoing maintenance. This might well provide access to an extensive solutions portfolio but is not always the best tool for the job at hand.

Today, companies are increasingly turning to the cloud instead, where best-of-breed solutions can be built from an ecosystem of existing components, connected via APIs. This means you can build the specific solution you need in less time and with fewer upfront costs, paying only for what you need when you need it.

A vision for the future

By integrating tax departments across VAT and CT and migrating to new, flexible, constantly updating cloud technologies, companies can futureproof themselves for whatever comes next on the MTD journey. Furthermore, outside of HMRC regulations, many anticipate that wider EU standards will be introduced to address similar issues. With the right solution already in place, companies will be able to comply quickly and with minimal effort.

MTD for CT is set to be introduced in 2026, which may seem like the distant future, however re-evaluating your tax reporting processes, integrating data across tax teams and implementing versatile solutions today will ensure you are well ahead of the competition. Starting to make the necessary changes now means that your team will be fully integrated and efficient – having already ironed out any preliminary issues – ahead of the compliance deadline. Using all the available data in the most connected, transparent and accessible way, will ensure VAT and CT are synchronised for success.

For more information visit https://www.taxsystems.com/.

Signs Of Increasing Acceptance For Crypto

But, in March this year, Goldman Sachs became the first major US bank to trade crypto over the counter. In a historic move, the bank traded a non-deliverable option with crypto merchant bank Galaxy Digital. Also in March, President Biden signed an Executive Order named Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets. In a surprise move, Senator Elizabeth Warren even told reporter Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that the US should create a central bank digital currency (CBDC), also noting that crypto will need to be regulated - to avoid repeats of events such as the subprime mortgage crisis. These steps followed JP Morgan setting a similar milestone in February, by entering the Metaverse.  While up to now most of the crypto activity has been dominated by pure crypto players like Coinbase, Paxos and Grayscale, with the recent flurry of activity many previously cynical financial services decision-makers are sitting up, and wondering if there is more to this crypto thing than they originally thought possible. Some are even playing catch-up as to what crypto even is. 

Crypto Caution

Nevertheless, even with Presidential engagement, cryptocurrencies are still viewed as the Wild West and, to some extent, in the current state of play, rightly so. They can certainly be dangerous for rookie investors, with new types of cryptocurrencies or tokens fluctuating wildly, from soaring highs to collapse. Even those that are more established, with Bitcoin as the prime example, are volatile assets, subject to jaw-dropping swings in value. References and preferences by famous people can impact it massively. There are also fears about security and that crypto is used to facilitate terrorism and crime.

The cryptocurrency “movement” and blockchain generally were born of striving for better – a wish for a new way to do things.  And it is a technology that has huge potential for decreasing friction, improving transparency, decentralisation and, ironically, for building more trust. The way most banks still operate is no longer fit for purpose.

In the short attention span landscape we now operate in, three to five business days for funds to clear is increasingly perceived as inappropriate and unacceptable by customers and they’re increasingly unwilling to tolerate paying hefty amounts with apparently foggy fee structures for a snail’s pace service in terms of payments, international transfers and so on. It's the consumer who suffers and pays for inefficiencies that seem prehistoric in today’s fast-moving environment.

And then are those that are underbanked or entirely unbanked.  Many millions of people across the globe are denied access to financial services entirely. Even in America and Europe, where there’s a bank on every corner, still today we see that without tax returns, a permanent address or access to a physical branch, gaining loans or just opening a bank account, remains difficult or entirely out of reach for many. In developing countries, the problem is far worse - huge. Cryptocurrency has the potential to address this imbalance.

However, and here we come full circle, cryptocurrencies suffer from a reputation problem, in a way that banks don’t. And crypto can’t get the buy-in it would need from the wider population outside its early-adopter fan base that it would need.  Older people, in particular, are likely to baulk at using them.

Is Crypto Dangerous?

It’s not actually true that cryptocurrency is fundamentally unsafe. Its underlying technology is, in fact, far more stable and transparent than that of many mainstream banks, which themselves have some fairly unstable, outdated technology.  Bitcoin, as an example, has never been hacked, while many mainstream banks have lost the data of millions and suffered breaches that have compromised the privacy of their customers. Decentralised finance holds rich promise - if it works hand in hand with more trusted financial brands and within the established systems.

The Benefits Of Crypto

While some Bitcoin pioneers don’t want banks to have any role in the financial systems of tomorrow and linked the technology to an idealistic ideology, most people just care about transaction speed: how easy that transaction is to make, that it doesn’t cost too much, and that it is safe. Banks working with cryptocurrencies can deliver that. The technology is a game-changer, but to truly deliver, it will have to integrate with mainstream banking systems.   

What’s in it for banks is simple. Banks hate losing customers, especially en masse.  And lots of customers are looking in the crypto direction. If customers are wealthy and want a fully diversified portfolio for the best returns on investment, they likely aren’t going to want to miss out on the crypto potential.  Likewise, if bank customers want to interact in the metaverse, it can’t be done without a crypto wallet, which currently their bank isn’t offering.

If you’re working in America and sending money home to family in another country, you don’t want to be charged 20% and upwards to transfer that money. Likewise, financial institutions are paying through the nose transferring money cross-border. Each transaction can go through several different banks and different gateways using the labyrinthine and only partially-automated and costly SWIFT system. Crypto can make the process faster and exponentially cheaper. Funds can be used to buy Crypto, transferred via a digital wallet and exchanged at the other end for a different currency. It’s like the difference between queuing on the highway for the toll gate or using an electronic pass on a tag in the window - a digital highway.

How Banks Can Keep Up With Crypto

 Banks will increasingly need to create and offer infrastructure for cryptocurrency so that they keep hold of clients.. Say an institutional client or wealthy client has 100 million in a bank and wants a 20 million direct exposure to crypto - right now they couldn’t do it through a mainstream bank as no banks offer that service.  So that customer now would have to take their 20 million and open an account at Coinbase. Money is walking.  Coinbase has a 98 million customer base - larger than that of JP Morgan, which has been in business for over 150 years. 

Banks need to at the very least start offering custody, key management and digital wallets. As brands outside of banking look to transact in e-commerce, NFTs and cryptocurrency in a more efficient way, there is an opportunity for banks to enable them to set up their accounts that could also be housed at a bank.

Going forward banks may extend into crypto investment and the areas of staking, liquidity pools and Defi as they grow in size and importance to the marketplace. Crypto mortgages for the metaverse are a big opportunity for banks.  Such mortgages are already available elsewhere.

Banking is becoming an ambiguous term, as many new players such as Walmart come on board. There used to be lines drawn around areas of finance.  Not so long ago, asset management was doing investments and managing people's money and banks were doing payments. Fast forward to today and the lines are blurred - there's no distinction anymore. Now banks are doing asset management, investment management, and payments. Tech companies are doing payments. And Walmart is doing mortgages. And fintech is doing asset management and old established banks are doing fintech.  Banks need to stay relevant.

Final Thoughts

Look at the landscape in the mid-nineties. Some said you’ll be able to make calls via the internet, and they’ll be free. But that seemed decades off.  Look at contactless payments, and voice recognition.  All these seemed very new one day and shortly after, just the way we do things.

Regulation is on its way and this - along with the rise of the metaverse, with its huge appeal to the mass market - will bring down the final barrier to crypto’s natural place at the heart of an evolving financial ecosystem.

Cryptocurrency will become mainstream, and sooner than many think. 

About the author: David Donovan is EVP, Financial Services, Americas at Publicis Sapient.  

With disconnected processes and systems within their customers’ infrastructure exacerbating the issue, it’s not surprising that many fintech solutions are difficult to fully integrate. Indeed, almost half (40%) of fintechs globally are struggling to connect to their customers’ applications or systems, according to research from InterSystems

This challenge is likely to make it difficult for fintechs to integrate any new applications or solutions within a financial services organisation’s technology stack – impeding their ability to collaborate with these types of institutions. With 93% of all fintechs surveyed keen to collaborate with incumbent banks in some way, connectivity problems could seriously inhibit their ability to capitalise on these potentially lucrative relationships. 

To avoid missing out on opportunities like these, fintechs must find a way to connect more easily to any financial services organisation’s existing legacy applications. 47% of global fintechs state that enabling better integration with customers and third parties is one of the biggest drivers behind implementing new technologies, so there is a clear appetite to address this challenge. 

One of the most effective solutions for fintechs is to develop a bidirectional data gateway between their own applications - of which 98% are at least partly cloud-based, 23% are hybrid cloud and on-premises, and the remainder are based in public or private clouds - and their customers’ environments. This can be achieved with smart data fabrics. With cloud offerings making it easier to provide remote access and service updates, in addition to facilitating deployment on-premises, developing a bidirectional gateway will ensure that financial services institutions do not miss out on innovative fintech applications.

A new architectural approach

Traditionally, integration of fintech services and applications has been accomplished through manual and cumbersome means: the slow process of coding point-to-point integrations and moving and copying data is difficult to maintain and notoriously prone to errors. Moreover, this outdated practice makes feeding applications the live, real-time data they require extremely difficult.  

By implementing a smart data fabric, a new architectural approach, fintechs can create a bidirectional, real-time data gateway between their cloud-based applications and their customers’ existing on-premises and cloud-based applications and data stores. The smart data fabric provides a complementary and non-disruptive layer that connects and accesses information from legacy systems and applications on-demand. 

Smart data fabrics integrate real-time event and transactional data, along with historical and other data from the wide variety of back-end systems in use by financial services organisations. They can then transform it into a common, harmonised format to feed cloud fintech applications on demand, providing bidirectional, real-time, consistent, and secure data sharing between fintech applications and financial services production applications. Bidirectional connectivity also ensures that any changes made through the fintech applications can be securely reflected in those production applications.

Embracing this new architectural approach will allow financial services organisations easy leverage of new fintech services and applications, facilitating seamless integration with their existing production applications and data sources. For the 40% of fintechs currently finding it difficult to connect to their enterprise customers’ environments, this will be very gratefully received – and will open the door to mutually beneficial partnerships with banks. 

Driving innovation forward

Easier integration between fintech cloud-native applications and financial services organisations’ existing infrastructures will provide banks with a consistent, accurate, real-time view of their enterprise data assets, as well as increased speed and agility. With the financial services sector in need of an innovation injection to meet changing customer and regulatory expectations, this smart data fabric-powered approach to developing a bidirectional data gateway will also help to spark creativity and fuel innovative ideas. 

These capabilities will enable financial services institutions to swiftly react to new opportunities and changes in their environment. It also gives them the insight needed to make better business decisions and improve customer experience, as they can provide more digital and hyper-personalised offerings.

Fintechs across the world are recognising the potential benefits of improved collaboration with banks. 56% believe that banks will get value from fintechs through improved customer experience and engagement, while 50% say that better partnerships will result in more opportunities for banks to focus on their core areas of expertise. A similar number (54%) believe that banks stand to gain from increased agility and speed to market. With data fabrics, fintechs and banks can take steps towards putting these objectives into motion. 

A win-win for fintechs

By adopting a smart data fabric approach to implementing a real-time, bidirectional data gateway, fintechs globally will effectively kill two birds with one stone – helping to increase both collaboration and innovation. 

Embracing this new type of data architecture will allow fintechs to better connect their cloud-based applications to their customers’ environments, allowing solutions to be more swiftly and easily integrated within those environments. In turn, this will boost the potential for collaboration with financial services institutions. 

Furthermore, this technology will enable fintechs to better support financial services organisations through their own data struggles, helping data to instead become a critical differentiator that empowers financial services to swiftly innovate. By being able to more easily adopt fintech applications, financial services organisations can unlock faster development cycles, experience fewer bugs, and even reduce their total cost of ownership.  Enhanced innovation opportunities will steer institutions towards their business goals, thereby delivering benefits back to their customers and creating an all-important competitive edge.

About the author: Redmond O’Leary is Sales Manager, Ireland at InterSystems.

Finance Monthly is pleased to announce that the full list of winners of our 2021 Women in Finance Awards has been published.

Working in the financial services sector as a woman has always meant facing challenges, barriers to entry and an unequal gender balance in the workplace. Since the release of the Finance Monthly Women in Finance Awards 2020, we have seen some progress towards gender parity in the sector – however, 20% representation of women on executive committees and 23% on boards is still a far cry from our end goals and proof that a good deal of work remains to be done to ensure greater opportunity for women’s advancement in financial services.

As a leading financial publication, Finance Monthly strives to shine a light on the work of female professionals, the obstacles they face and the challenges they overcome. Each of the finance experts featured in this year’s edition of the Finance Monthly Women in Finance Awards are women who consistently achieve more than is expected of them despite barriers within the industry at large.

2021’s Featured Winners

This year’s standout winners include Susie Hillier, Head of Wealth Planning at Stonehage Fleming, who tells us about her success in building a diverse and high-performing team. We also hear from Rebecca Fels Larsson on her career progress as an investment professional at CORDET, among many other stories of achievement from female professionals.

At Finance Monthly, we are proud to share each of these stories with you. Congratulations to all our winners.

Dima Kats, CEO of Clear Junction, explains what open banking is and why businesses should care.

Open banking breaks down traditional barriers in the financial sector that kept customer data locked up. For years, the only way businesses and consumers could view financial data like transaction histories was through paper statements or web forms. The lucky ones may have been able to access data in PDFs, or perhaps as downloadable files for specific desktop programs. For most customers though, that put restrictions on how they could use that data. Open banking changed everything. It puts businesses and consumers back in control of their data, allowing them to grant direct access to third-party companies via application programming interfaces (APIs) operated by their banks.

Open banking needs data

Data access is important for fintech companies that want to enhance their own services, such as fast loan approvals or budgeting applications. An online budgeting service could use customers' transaction data to show them summaries of where they spend their money, helping them to plan their finances more effectively. Fintech also includes elements of artificial intelligence (AI), typically in the form of machine learning. The combination of access to larger amounts of financial data and the power of AI will enable businesses and consumers to glean new insights from banking services.

Initial access to that data has been difficult in the US, but on 9 July 2021, the Biden administration took a big step to support open banking's quest for data by introducing an Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. The Order contained a series of measures covering issues ranging from the right to repair through to non-compete clauses. Among them was a request for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to consider new rules that would mandate portability for financial data. This move didn't happen in a vacuum. The CFPB had already issued non-binding guidance on open banking in 2017, followed by an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking last October that would give open banking principles regulatory teeth. Nevertheless, the Executive Order brings even more momentum to this issue.

Embracing competition

Hard rules on data portability will have a significant impact on a US banking market that has seen an erosion of competition in the last few decades, with nine in ten banks closing since 1985. Gaining access to their data will give consumers and businesses more power to switch financial institutions. It will also spark a whole new wave of innovative competition. Smaller challenger banks in the US will be able to offer services using customers’ banking data.

Ushering in a new era of open banking in the US will also encourage cooperative relationships between incumbent and new financial players. Soon, consumers and businesses will be able to make their financial data available to fintech players who can use it to offer cutting-edge services at speed and scale, often in partnership with incumbent banks or with each other. Fintech companies will be able to use APIs to exchange data with banks directly so that they can complement each others' services and provide seamless user experiences.

The Executive Order was also a clear sign that this administration wants to keep laws and regulations in sync with new technological developments. This is encouraging, as it gives more certainty to new and rapidly evolving areas of the economy. Clear rules stipulating data sharing will encourage fintech companies to invest in more exciting services.

Spreading open banking through responsible regulation

This development in the US will hopefully also stimulate competition abroad, where open banking concepts are in various stages of development. In Europe, version 2 of the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) took effect in 2018, imposing similar data portability rules. The results have been impressive. In the UK, 2.5 million UK consumers and businesses now use open banking-enabled products to handle their finances, according to the UK government's Competition and Markets Authority.

With the call for open banking now coming from the highest levels of leadership in the US, it's time other countries around the world align themselves with similar regulations that will encourage competition and partnerships in the financial sector. This will boost the customer experience with new and innovative services. It takes joined-up thinking to create a new era of joined-up services.

The ultra-low interest rate environment and fee compression in areas like payments continue. Competition from challengers and fintechs is intensifying. Customer digital adoption has grown, and the bar of expectation continues to rise.

The impediments to change that traditional banks face are not going away - high cost-bases, inflexible and complex legacy technology estates, and operating models that lack customer-focus and agility.

Banks face the imperatives of increasing and diversifying revenues, optimising costs and increasing business agility. In this article, Simon Hull, Head of Financial Services at BJSS, looks at the revenue challenge and why smart use of digital technology is the key to success.

Revenue drivers

Banks are looking to win new customers, retain and maximise business from existing customers and diversify the traditional deposit and lending business with fee-based products and services. Some of the key elements banks are focusing on in this respect are customer experience, customer intelligence, and product and service range.

Customer experience is a battleground and competition is intense. Last year's Ipsos Mori poll has Monzo and Starling coming out ahead on many customer service metrics. Digital channels are becoming primary. Customers are attracted to slick and intuitive digital experiences and expect increasingly personalised service as banks learn more about them.

However, the empathetic human touch is still essential, as is the consistency of service across in-person, phone and digital channels. Customers want the choice of channels to use for different tasks, and preferences differ across demographics. The brand experience is just as significant, with social and environmental responsibility top of the list. The combination of service and brand will drive loyalty and recommendations.

Customers want the choice of channels to use for different tasks, and preferences differ across demographics.

Customer intelligence is about gaining a deep, holistic and continuous understanding of the customer - their needs, behaviours, preferences and influences. With this, a truly customer-centric operating model can be created - one where product and service development, marketing, distribution, and customer service are aligned and evolve alongside the customer. This enables a broadening of the relationship to maximise customer wallet share by tailoring to their needs to build multi-product relationships.

Banks need to assess their current product and service range, consider discontinuing low volume or low profitability products, and ensure the rest are available on their digital channels. In parallel, banks must move to an agile product and service development model to enable rapid innovation based on customer intelligence. This will help sustain and protect revenues as needs change and diversify into fee-based products, as many major banks are doing in areas such as financial advice, wealth management, insurance, point-of-sale financing and subscription models.

Digital technology solutions

Digital technologies, used in the right way, hold the key to delivering these three revenue drivers.

Investing in user-centric design is critical for banks to understand customer needs, jobs to be done and interaction preferences. Web and mobile digital technologies power responsive and real-time banking apps, compelling user journeys and more frequent interactions and alerts. They are also a critical source of customer data which can be used to refine interactions and develop new products and services iteratively. Banks should move their full product and service range onto their digital channels, and also focus on customer education and self-service. The same technology can be used to digitally enable branch and call-centre staff, creating more informed and rich customer interactions.

Data and AI is really the heart of digital customer-facing banking. Capturing and combining datasets involves both making the vast troves of data stuck in siloed legacy systems available, capturing real-time customer data from digital platforms and also bringing in additional third-party sources. AI can be used to join the dots and identify patterns to better understand and predict needs, which can drive timely interactions and personalised products and services. It also enables a better understanding of personal situation and risk, prerequisites for new services such as wealth management and insurance. Broadening the model of the customer extends the opportunity to establish multi-product relationships. This generates more interactions and data, so a cycle of continual analysis and innovation is formed.

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AI capabilities can also be combined with RPA to enable Intelligent Automation of many customer service tasks such as standard enquiries that can be handled by conversational AI. Highly responsive, accurate and information-rich conversational interfaces improve the customer experience. This in turn, enables staff to provide a better customer service by focussing on personal service and higher value or more complex needs.

Cloud is a crucial enabler of much of the above in several ways. The inherent agility of cloud-based services enables rapid innovation and the delivery of new services and features through microservices. Elastic scalability enables the platform to adapt to usage expansion and maintain responsiveness under high load. Native out-of-the-box data and analytics capabilities will accelerate the AI journey. The fast provisioning of new environments supports an agile product development methodology.

For traditional banks, legacy modernisation must feature in the digital change programme. Legacy systems can negatively impact the speed and cost of change. Modernisation must be prioritised, and iterative strategies applied such as facading systems behind APIs, breaking out elements of monoliths as standalone reusable services and cloud migration. Legacy systems contain critical data that is needed to build a holistic customer view. Modernisation of the change function to a customer-centric agile model is a broad enabler for all revenue-generating activity.

Conclusion

The industry is at an inflection point, and banks face a considerable challenge to drive revenue opportunities. The key to success is precision of focus on business goals and aligning the right digital technology combinations to deliver on the customer experience, customer intelligence and rapid product and service innovation goals. Banks are at different stages on this journey, and of course, revenue must also come with profitability. Hence, costs are another challenge that must be faced in a similar way.

Ammar Akhtar, co-founder and CEO at Yobota, explores the steps necessary to the creation of successful fintech.

The first national lockdown in March highlighted the importance of the quality and functionality of digital banking solutions. Indeed, most of us quickly became accustomed to conducting our financial affairs entirely online.

Financial services providers have needed to adapt to this shift, if they were not already prepared, and consumers will continue to demand more. For instance, Yobota recently surveyed over 2,000 UK adults to explore how satisfied customers are with their recent banking experiences. The majority (58%) of banking customers said they want more power to renegotiate or change their accounts or products, with a third (33%) expressing frustrations at having to choose from generic, off-the-shelf financial products.

Consumers are increasingly demanding more responsive and personalised banking services, with the research highlighting that people are increasingly unlikely to tolerate being locked into unsuitable financial products. This is true across all sectors of the financial services landscape; from payment technologies (where cashless options have become a necessity as opposed to a trendy luxury) to insurance, the shift to “quality digital” poses challenges throughout the industry.

Providers and technology vendors must therefore respond accordingly and develop solutions that can meet such demands. Many financial institutions will be enlisting the help of a fintech partner that can help them build and deploy new technologies. Others may try to recruit the talent required to do so in-house.

The question, then, is this: how is financial technology actually created, and how complicated is the task of building a solution that is fit for purpose in today’s market?

Compliance and regulation

The finance sector is heavily regulated. As such, compliance and regulatory demands pose a central challenge to fintech development in any region. It is at the heart of winning public trust and the confidence of clients and partners.

Controls required to demonstrate compliance can amount to a significant volume of work, not just because the rules can change (even temporarily, as we have seen in some cases this year), but because often there is room for interpretation in principle-based regulatory approaches. It is therefore important for fintech creators to have compliance experts that can handle the regulatory demands. This is especially important as the business (or fintech product) scales, crosses borders, and onboards more users.

The finance sector is heavily regulated. As such, compliance and regulatory demands pose a central challenge to fintech development in any region.

Businesses must also be forthcoming and transparent about their approach towards protecting the customer, and by extension the reputation of their business partner. Europe’s fintech industry cannot afford another Wirecard scandal.

Compliance features do not have to impede innovation, though. Indeed, they may actually foster it. To ensure fintech businesses have the right processes in place to comply with legislation, there is huge scope to create and extend partnerships with the likes of cybersecurity experts and eCommerce businesses.

The size and growth of the regulation technology (regtech) sector is evidence of the opportunities for innovations that are actually born out of this challenge. The global regtech market is expected to grow from $6.3 billion in 2020 to $16.0 billion by 2025. Another great example would be the more supportive stance regulators have taken to cloud infrastructure, which has opened up a range of new options across the sector.

Addressing technical challenges 

It is the technical aspect of developing fintech products where most attention will be focused, however. There are a number of considerations businesses ought to keep in mind as they seek to utilise technology in the most effective way possible.

Understanding the breadth of the problem

The fintech sector is incredibly broad. Payment infrastructure, insurance, and investment management are among the many categories of financial services that fall under the umbrella.

A fintech company must be able to differentiate its product or services in order to create a valuable and defensible competitive advantage. So, businesses must pinpoint exactly which challenges they are going to solve first. Do they need to improve or replace something that already exists? Or do they want to bring something entirely new to the market?

The end product must solve a very specific problem; and do it well. A sharp assessment of the target market also includes considering the functionality that the technology must have; the level of customisation that will be required from a branding and business perspective; and what the acceptable price bracket is for the end product.

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Knowing your client

In the same vein, as a vendor it is important to be specific and strategic when it comes to pursuing the right clients. A fintech might consider itself to be well-positioned to cater to a vast selection of different businesses; however, it’s important to have a very clear target client in mind. This will ensure product and engineering teams have a clear focus for any end goal.

The value of a good cultural fit should also not be underestimated. The business-to-business relationship between a fintech and its client (a bank, for example), particularly at senior levels, is just as important as finding the right niche. There must be a mutual understanding of what the overall vision is and how it will be achieved, including the practical implementation, timeline and costs.

Balancing “best tech” with (perceived) “best practice”

Leveraging the newest technology is not always the best approach to developing a future-proof proposition. This has been learned the hard way by many businesses keen to jump on the latest trends.

Shiny new technology like particular architectures or programming languages can have an obvious appeal to businesses looking to create the “next big thing”. But in reality, the element of risk involved in jumping on relatively nascent innovations could set back progress significantly.

The best technology systems are those that have been created with longevity in mind, and which can grow sustainably to adapt to new circumstances. These systems need to run for many years to come, and eventually without their original engineers to support them, so they need to be created in modern ways, but using proven foundational principles that can stand the test of time.

Curating a positive user experience

To revert back to my original point, fintech businesses cannot forget about the needs of the end customer. There is no better proof point for a product than a happy user base, and ultimately the “voice of the customer” should drive development roadmaps.

The best technology systems are those that have been created with longevity in mind, and which can grow sustainably to adapt to new circumstances.

Customer experience is one of the most important success factors to any technology business. Fintechs must consider how they can deftly leverage new and advancing technology to make the customer experience even better, while also improving their underlying product, which users may not necessarily see, but will almost certainly feel.

Another important consideration is ease of integration with other providers. For example, identity verification, alternative credit scoring, AI assisted chatbots and recommendation algorithms, next generation core banking, transaction classification, and simplification of mortgage chains – these are all services which could be brought together in some product to improve the experience of buying a mortgage, or moving home.

Progressive fintech promotes partnerships and interoperability to reduce the roadblocks that customers encounter.

The human side of fintech

Powerful digital solutions cannot be created without the right people in place. There is fierce competition for talent in the fintech space, especially in key European centres like London and Berlin. Those who can build and nurture the right team will be in a strong position to solve today’s biggest challenges.

In all of these considerations, patience is key. It takes time to identify new growth opportunities; to build the right team that can see the vision through; and to adapt to the ever-changing financial landscape. Creating fintech is not easy, but it is certainly rewarding to see the immense progress being made and the inefficiencies that are being tackled.

Paul Naha-Biswas, founder and CEO of Sixley, shares some of the outcomes of the 2008 recession and how a similar economic downturn could lead to greater innovation and success in UK businesses.

On 12 August, the worst-kept secret in the country came out, and the UK entered a recession for the first time in eleven years.

Few were surprised by the news. In the months preceding the announcement, the economy went through a period of unprecedented disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, culminating in GDP plummeting by 20.4% within the first three months of the year.

But, while the ‘R’ word might send a shiver down the spine of most businesses, it may surprise you to learn that many of the household brands we use today were formed in the last global financial crisis (GFC). Uber and Airbnb were just two businesses founded during the 2008 crash and used the recession as an opportunity to innovate within their sector.

So, with this in mind, what lessons can businesses learn from the last financial crash and where are the opportunities for innovation this time around?

Lessons from the 2008 financial crash 

In the last recession, the consumer businesses that did well were those that offered services or goods at a far lower cost than pre-GFC.

As budgets tightened, people were increasingly prepared to change their consumer behaviour and explore new digital-first businesses to save money. As a result, we saw a significant rise in casual dining and low-cost retail – such as Boohoo – and also a spike in digital businesses, such as Airbnb and Uber that, through their use of lateral business models, brought quality services to people at a much lower price than competitors. Who could have imagined before 2008 that you could book a whole apartment for less than a hotel room or get driven around town for half the cost of a black cab?

In the last recession, the consumer businesses that did well were those that offered services or goods at a far lower cost than pre-GFC.

How COVID-19 is changing consumer behaviour  

A similar trend is emerging during the COVID-19 recession, with Britons cutting back hard on their spending – both out of worry and due to a lack of spending opportunities.

Consumer spending fell by 36.5% in April compared with the same month last year, which followed a 6% drop in March. During the same period, spending on travel nearly halved, and outlay on pubs, clubs, and bars dropped by 97%.

However, the unique circumstances of COVID-19 have created a new trend in consumer behaviour that wasn’t apparent in the GFC. The Government lockdowns actioned around the world has shown businesses how much of our economy can shift online. And the longer restrictions go on for, the less likely it is that businesses will return completely to their post-COVID-19 setup.

With more people staying at home, there will be increased demand for digital, online services and more opportunities for businesses to innovate. Take Hopin, a virtual events company, for example, the brand spotted a gap in the market created by everyone staying inside during the pandemic and raised over $170 million from investors and built up a $2 billion+ valuation since lockdown began, despite only being founded in 2019.

Hopin isn’t the only business success story from COVID-19 and with the pandemic likely to bring about permanent changes in consumer behaviour, there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to establish businesses that will disrupt their sector in a similar way to how Uber and Airbnb did in 2008.

The availability of excellent talent  

However, increased consumer demand for digital services, isn’t the only reason why now is an opportune moment for innovation.

In the GFC, labour turnover fell significantly – from 18% of the workforce in 2006 to a low of 10% in 2013 – as workers looked to hold onto secure jobs and employers put a pause on recruitment.

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Once again, a similar trend is emerging, with employment opportunities falling by 62% across the UK in the three months to June compared to the same quarter last year.

While this isn’t the ideal situation for jobseekers, businesses now have a huge and diverse talent pool to choose from. For example, start-up founders can bring in highly experienced, motivated employees without having to poach or hire on full-time contracts, something that many start-ups may otherwise struggle to afford.

And there’s promising signs that current prospects for jobseekers will change soon. Following news that two potentially effective vaccines will be rolled out in the new year, shares in businesses skyrocketed on newfound optimism suggesting they will bounce back. Similarly, in the aftermath of the GFC, spend on recruitment agencies bottomed out at 75% of pre-2008 levels before eventually exceeding pre-recession levels by 2013/14.

The great American writer Mark Twain once said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes, and, in this instance, the saying rings true. Although the circumstances may be different, the COVID-19 recession, like the GFC, has opened new markets that businesses, if they are fast enough, can take advantage of. With a swell of excellent, experienced candidates available and changing consumer behaviour, the environment is perfect for new start-ups to emerge and become this decade’s Airbnb and Uber.

Nigel Frith, vice president of financial services at AskTraders, discusses how challenger banks have revolutionised the banking industry and the opportunities more traditional banks can explore as they aim to extend their digital offerings. 

As the high street has evolved in order to meet the changing needs of consumers, retailers have been left with no option other than to reinvent themselves. The banking industry certainly hasn’t been immune to these shifting trends either and as a result, over the last few years traditional banks have been forced to adapt and change the way they operate. While their face-to-face services still remain a crucial string to their bow, banks have had to invest heavily in their digital offerings in order to compete with increasingly popular digital-first providers. So, why are these challenger banks such as Monzo and Starling so attractive to customers and how have the big players in the industry risen to this digital challenge?

A focus on challenger banks

With their chic apps and personalised offerings, new banks can’t be found on the high street but are instead on your mobile phone. Their customer-centric approach has simplified banking by providing users with features which make daily tasks that little bit easier. From being able to split the cost of meals with friends to keeping track of monthly outgoings, these app-based services have really hit the spot in the eyes of many.

With more than four million customers, Monzo is perhaps the most well-known challenger bank. It started out in 2015 as a prepaid card that could be topped up via its app before transforming into a sole banking brand in 2017. It offers all of the usual current account services regular banks provide but also enables customers to manage their money in an effective and efficient manner. The ease at which you can navigate through the app is certainly a big draw for digital-savvy youngsters who are able to quickly transfer money to their friends and set monthly budgets.

In recent years it has continued to broaden its services such as by adopting a ‘get paid early’ feature which allows users to be paid their salary or student loan a day early. By embracing a channel-based communication model, Monzo has also been able to respond to incidents such as outages in a typically effective fashion. Customers can report any issues using a chat service on the app and they have the ability to freeze a card from their phone should they lose it.

With their chic apps and personalised offerings, new banks can’t be found on the high street but are instead on your mobile phone.

Another major benefit of banking with Monzo and many of its other app-based competitors is that it doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees for spending. It has therefore become a highly attractive option with regular travellers and holidaymakers alike.

How traditional banks have risen to the challenge

Although recent analysis of bank branch data has revealed that (if the current rate of closures was to be maintained) there would be no high street banks left by April 2032, there is clearly still a demand for in-person banking. Many people still feel more comfortable going into a bank to pay-in cheques while others are reliant on the financial advice they can access in-store. Clearly there remains a need for traditional banks, such as the big four in the UK - Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC and RBS - to evolve their offerings.

In recent years, therefore, these banks have invested heavily in their online and mobile banking services in a bid to compete with digital-first providers like Monzo. This has included providing customers with perks such as being able to pay for purchases using virtual cards on their apps and providing them with the ability to cash-in cheques from the comfort of their own homes.

Leading the way has been Barclays who in 2017 invested £4,148 million into their digital platforms. Now, more than 90% of Barclays’ transactions take place over mobile devices, emphasising the effective nature of their transition to a more digitally-focused way of operating. In December 2018, Barclays also designed a feature which allowed customers to turn off payments towards certain websites should they feel they are unable to curb their spending. More recently, it has taken things a step further by enabling users to view the accounts they hold with rival banks on their platforms - an option which would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

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Key to ensuring customers have felt comfortable transitioning to these digital services has been the commitment banks have shown towards tackling cyber crime. This has seen the banking industry team up with the government, police and other regulators in recent years. Initiatives have been set up to not only raise awareness of the threat scammers pose but to also reassure customers of the stringent measures banks have in place to protect their personal data. Last year, UK banking security systems prevented fraud on an estimated £1.4 billion scale, demonstrating the importance of their investment into tackling cyber crime.

The future

With banks now constantly innovating in a bid to steal a march on their competitors, it is likely we’ll continue to see big changes taking place within the industry over the coming years. One thing that is clear though is that there will be a continued drive by providers to further improve and simplify the customer experience. Although further high street branch closures are inevitable, banks are working hard to maintain their in-person services for those who prefer to operate in this capacity also. While digital banking isn’t for everyone, the ease and efficiency at which millions of people can now complete financial tasks has left a lasting impression on many.

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